It’s no secret that having an online presence is absolutely necessary. And it’s no secret that competition for your potential audience’s time is cut-throat at best. We carry our mobile devices with us at all times and no matter where we are, we can search and locate whatever fancy comes to mind. When studies tell us that over 60% of all search users will click on one of the top three search results, we must listen. We must do what we can to position ourselves into the top three (1 out of 3 users click that first organic result!) or lose out to the competition.
H2: What is SEO?
By now, you have surely heard the term SEO. But you may still not quite understand what it means. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is an ongoing process of optimizing your website structure and content in order to rank as high as possible in organic (non-paid) search results. While Google doesn’t share its algorithm for ranking websites in search results (it’s rumored there are over 200 factors involved), there are many proven effective steps you can take to help your site rank higher. Some of the more complicated external factors—such as gaining backlinks from reputable websites—strongly affect your page ranking. However, some of the simplest steps are internal to your website and are too often overlooked.
This series will look at some of those simpler pieces that you can fix that will immediately help Google index you pages more accurately, which will result in higher rankings. A key takeaway here is that the robots are smart these days. They look at the site as a whole as well as the individual words and phrases. They make a determination of what important information can be found on each page. If you want your site to be easily found in the right searches, you must also take this holistic approach. The days of stuffing a bunch of key words into the bottom of the page are long over. Your content must be topical, contextual, and cohesive or you will be penalized.
H2: Behind the Scenes
In Part 1, we will discuss the elements working behind the scenes of your webpage that are generally not seen by most humans but are vital to helping the indexing robots know what is important and how to describe your page when returned in search results.
- Title Tags
- Meta Keywords and Descriptions
- Other Meta Tags
- Facebook Open Graph
- Twitter Cards
- Structured Data Markup
This is more technically detailed, but is important for writers and developers alike to know how it works in order to make it work best for everyone involved (and of course, bring customers to your website).
H3: Title Tags
Every webpage must have a unique title tag. For the user, this title shows up in browser tabs or elsewhere depending on which browser is being used. For search results, however, this is the larger, bold, listed title of the page. While by itself, the title has little effect on your ranking overall, it is the tippy top of the topical cohesiveness that higher ranking requires and should accurately reflect what can be found on the page. The title can be as simple as your company name for the home page. But your “About Us” page should be titled something like “About Us | Company Name.” Any product pages or blog articles should be titled appropriately. Keep it unique, but keep it simple. And try to keep it under 60 characters or you may see it cut off. This is the first thing a user will see when your page shows up in a search result so you want it to be concise and complete.
H3: Meta Keywords and Descriptions
There are many kinds of meta tags that you can have on a webpage. Many are completely unnecessary. Let’s talk about one of those first. The meta keyword tag was once a place where you could stuff all the keywords you wanted to rank for and Google would help you out with that. However, this changed back in 2009. Since then, Google’s bot and other search engine bots pass right on by the keyword meta tag and don’t even look at it. It is of no use whatsoever. Unfortunately, many are still using the tag thinking that it will tell the search engines how to index the page without having any relevant content in the page text. We’ll get into this more in Part 2 of the series, but actual keywords and phrases need to be used in on-page content in semantically appropriate (topically relevant, contextually relevant) ways or you will not see any positive results. Just toss that keyword tag right on out.
The description tag, on the other hand, is still a must. But don’t be confused here. The meta description tag does not affect your page indexing and results ranking. Instead, it is the second thing seen in search results, right under the title. The title tag and description tag together must show your reader that you have what they are looking for. It’s elevator pitch time. If all of your SEO efforts have pushed your page to the top of the list, but your title and description don’t sell it, don’t expect a click. Currently, Google is experimenting with longer descriptions. You can write longer descriptions as long as you get the most important info into the first 155 characters. Then, at least, you get the same pitch across whether you get cut at standard size or not.
Side note: Click-through rates and page bounce are now sending stronger signals back to Google as ranking factors: The more users who click your result and stay on your page, the higher you will continue to rank.
<meta name="description" content="TheChatterBox Guys! Fresno's digital marketing gurus! Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and SEO!" />
H3: Other Meta Tags
Again, while these (and all other) meta tags have no direct effect on your site ranking, they have everything to do with how your site is seen in search results, which does have a direct effect on click-through rates—which as noted above have the direct effect on ranking.
H4: Facebook Open Graph
With Facebook’s Open Graph API, developers can add active Facebook functionality within a 3rd party website. As part of this protocol, you can add Open Graph meta tags that feed descriptive information to Facebook. When someone on Facebook shares a link to your site, these tags kick in just like the title and description tags above with search results. Yet, you can add even more information here, from title and description to what locale your physical business is in to what image you want attached.
H4: Twitter Cards
Twitter Cards function similarly to the Open Graph in that they feed information to Twitter in order to control what it shows and how it shows it when someone shares a link to your site on Twitter. Take control of what users see and consider it as a first impression. Make users want to come to your site with an attention grabbing image and purposefully directed copy.
<!-- Facebook Open Graph Meta Tags -->
<meta property="og:site_name" content="TheChatterBox Guys"/>
<meta property="og:title" content="TheChatterBox Guys"/>
<meta property="og:url" content="http://www.thechatterboxguys.com/"/>
<meta property="og:type" content="website"/>
<meta property="og:description" content="TheChatterBox Guys! Fresno's digital marketing gurus! Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and SEO!"/>
<meta property="og:image" content="http://www.thechatterboxguys.com/images/logo.png"/>
<!-- Twitter Card Meta Tags -->
<meta name="twitter:title" content="TheChatterBox Guys"/>
<meta name="twitter:image" content="http://www.thechatterboxguys.com/images/logo.png"/>
<meta name="twitter:url" content="http://www.thechatterboxguys.com/"/>
<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary"/>
<meta name="twitter:description" content="TheChatterBox Guys! Fresno's digital marketing gurus! Content Marketing,
Social Media Marketing, and SEO!"/>
H3: Structured Data Markup
Google results now sometimes feature “rich snippets” of information, which can be as simple as a contact number or as complex as a set of instructions for baking an apple pie from scratch. The information Google grabs for these results can come from your content if the algorithm thinks the data is appropriate. It can come from your Google My Business account details. Or it can come from structured data markup. You can use this markup to guide Google on how to best feature specific information. Rich snippets can show up inline with search results or as part of the Knowledge Graph results (shown on the right half of the page). Ask Google a question and you will likely get an answer, sometimes with an image or infographic, displayed by the Knowledge Graph. Without getting too technical about how all this works, let’s just say that we can feed some great information to it via a script type called ld+json. Some easy targets are simply the clearest information about your site and organization.
H4: Start with website information:
<!-- Structured Data Markup -->
"@context" : "http://schema.org",
"@type" : "Website",
"name" : "TheChatterBox Guys",
"description":"TheChatterBox Guys! Fresno's digital marketing gurus! Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and SEO!",
"url" : "http://www.thechatterboxguys.com/",
H4: Add a list of your social sites:
"sameAs" : [
H4: Add a search bar within your search results and close the script:
"query-input": "required name=search_term_string"
H4: Start a new script to add your organization details:
H4: Finish with a new script to show locality:
This may seem like a lot of information to wrap your mind around at first. But remember, for the most part, the behind the scenes optimization is static data. It doesn’t change very often (of course, as part of your greater SEO effort you will want to ensure optimization with analytics and testing). It is well worth your time and effort to make sure each page of your website is optimized for search results display. As I said earlier, if you reach the top of the list with all your other SEO efforts, but your listing doesn’t entice a click, it’s all for naught.
H2: What’s Next?
In Part 2 of the series, we will open the curtain and look at the content of your pages—the actors on the stage and how they interact with the set. In other words, we’ll look at the structure of the content, how to properly use key words and phrases, and how to optimize images. Oh, and we'll also go over why I have my headers labeled H1, H2, etc.
While there are many things that you can do right now to help your site rank, there are no shortcuts to the top. These steps will get your website ready to go, but that's only the beginning. If you’d like to learn more about how TheChatterBox Guys can help perform an SEO audit for your website to make certain that all of these pieces and more are in place—and working correctly—contact me today!